Major decisions made easy


By Matt Silich

What is your name? What year in school are you? What is your major?

These three questions dominate the vast majority of initial conversations between college students. The first two are of obvious importance; one’s name and age defines his or her interactions in almost every social situation imaginable since birth. These are simply basic character traits.

The third trait in question, one’s major area of undergraduate study, only becomes relevant during college and carries a significant weight on campus.

There’s an inherent pressure that comes with selecting and ultimately finishing out a degree in one’s initial major. Some students believe that they would have to delay graduation if they selected a new major. Others may worry that their major will completely define their career, causing them to hesitate when considering a change.

This pressure seems to make some students reluctant to explore other majors and perhaps find a more enjoyable area of study.

Over half of the student population changes majors at least once, but there are still students who remain apprehensive about the process.

Having nearly completed the process of changing majors myself, I firmly recommend exploring alternatives if your first major doesn’t feel right.

In my case, I initially succumbed to the pressure of remaining in a lucrative field, and I regret the decision immeasurably. I was originally accepted into the College of Engineering, one of the most prestigious programs at the University.

Before I even made it to college, I wrestled between the choice of earning an engineering degree instead of doing something I truly enjoy: writing.

I decided to stay the course and see how much I enjoyed my first semester as an engineering student.

My first semester of math and science classes was tough, and it was clear by my grades and my happiness that I didn’t belong. I explored transferring into the College of Media and changing my major to News-Editorial Journalism after that first semester, but ultimately decided to try engineering for another semester because I didn’t want to leave a major with such high post-college earnings.

It’s clear now that I should have trusted my feelings and switched majors immediately upon realizing engineering wasn’t for me. I was so worried about not getting a job as an engineer that I didn’t do proper research on how college graduates use their degrees.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York analyzed 2010 census data and found that barely over one quarter of college graduates have a job that matches their undergraduate major.

This debunks some of the justification behind one of the primary myths ballooning the importance of college majors.

If nearly three-quarters of all college graduates don’t end up in a field directly related to their major, it’s certainly prudent to explore an area of study that is more enjoyable and personally rewarding.

More than anything, this shows that employers are willing to hire candidates with experience that doesn’t necessarily stem from their major. It’s possible to study what one loves and still pursue a tangentially related career.

That’s not to say that college is a time to switch to studying the most fun subject and ignore other opportunities for four years. There should be a balance between choosing the major that fits best and maintaining options for careers after graduation.

Though I’m not yet in the College of Media, I’ve found much more joy in taking courses from the journalism curriculum. However, I’ve stayed balanced by pursuing writing positions outside of school.

I’ve already discovered much of what I like and don’t like on the journalism career path, making me better prepared for graduation. And I have learned more from my journalism classes than my rigorous engineering classes because my passion often drives me to go the extra mile inside and outside the classroom.

Other students might be reluctant to pursue a change in major because it could postpone their graduation date. However, students may not realize that delays are potentially avoidable if students change majors early in their careers.

Despite not switching out of engineering until the end of my freshman year, I still have a good chance of graduating on time. This is all because I was aggressive in scheduling my required general education courses and requesting permission to enroll in curriculum courses. With similar planning and communication with professors, a timely graduation track could then be possible for many students debating a switch.

Changing one’s major is not a decision to be taken lightly, but I encourage aggressively pursuing it if your current major isn’t satisfying your academic desires.

As long as it’s done decisively and intelligently, switching into a more gratifying major can be one of the most rewarding decisions you’ll make in college.

Matt is a sophomore in DGS.

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